The Orality Phenomenon and its Impact on Believers

The center for Biblical Languages and Translations through David Swar, who is President for the 4.2.20 Foundation, gave us the following insight, “Today, only 9% of the world’s languages have a full Bible and there are still over 2,000 people groups without even a single verse of Scripture in a language they understand best. 

Epworth participants engaging in prayer during group sessions
Epworth participants engaging in prayer during group sessions

 

Each Monday our global team studies the Bible together and prays for those who do not have the full Word. This past Monday we focused on passages that mention the Deaf and looked specifically at one verse in Isaiah: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll” (Is.29:18). But for Deaf communities around the world Isaiah and the rest of the Original (Old) Testament is not yet available. Translators from the first three cohorts of the School of Biblical Hebrew are working on Original Testament translations in 60 languages that have never had a full Bible. They serve in various capacities in 153 translation projects, with the potential to impact over 12 million people in this generation. These translations make possible the growth of healthy communities of faith. Imagine for one moment the negative ramifications if this work do not take place. Now more than ever we need to accelerate Bible translation.” Since the invention of the Gutenberg press and the evolution of printing, the word of God became the printed pages of the Bible. From our brother Swar’s report one can hardly miss the reality that the process of producing the printed Bible is cumbersome. First it has to be translated into the languages of people groups and then production before delivering to consumers. With the new challenge presented to us by the Corona virus, it appears the task of printing will be put on hold for some time. While these developments are taking place, people need to hear the word of God because more people are dying in numbers like never before. These people would need hear and believe in the gospel message. This is where Orality and Bible storying becomes a tool on the cutting edge. Jesus used storying, parables and riddles to communicate the deep mysteries of the kingdom of God. Often he would say, “The kingdom of God is like….” to demonstrate the power and wisdom of stories. To some who are not familiar with Orality, it is important to understand it as a way to share the gospel of Jesus Christ without much reliance on written text. Although it is Bible based, the communicator uses storying, song and dance, poetry and theater such as the Jesus film to share the word from the creation story to Christ and from Christ to Revelation. This way is none discriminatory in terms of literacy, class and or ability.

 Group of participants posing for a photo with the facilitator in Chivhu
Group of participants posing for a photo with the facilitator in Chivhu

 

The EFZ is now part of the International Orality Network (ION). Under this global movement which falls under World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission, Orality is streamlined into seven important gateways namely Education, Development, Focused Outreach, Arts and Culture, Media, Research and Innovation and Storying. Thus Orality is taking the center stage in the life of Christian believers and the church as it permeates through all sectors of human life and development. Bible storying can easily address topical issues such as justice, governance and  societal values. There is no issue that Christ did not address, we only need to dig deeper and rediscover his teachings for example on financial stewardship, equality and justice, humanitarian aid, development and transformation, good neighbourliness, business and hospitality. It is therefore the responsibility of oral communicators to package these fundamental Biblical truths and share the good news with the hearers in a simple, understandable, applicable and reproducible way. In our Orality workshops, facilitators tell the story and help participants process every story through retelling same stories in focused groups, asking questions and praying together. Every workshop is another opportunity to experience God because the word responds and affect different people in different circumstances.